Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Shrimp Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Sometimes I think the Foodnetwork counteracts the joy of cooking. As I sit here watching Chopped, the chefs are challenged to use a Blue Foot Chicken in a recipe. First off, nobody brings a chicken home from the store with the feet and head still attached. So if you are fairly new to the art of cooking a chicken, already you'll be turned off watching chef after chef hacking the blue limbs and feet off this bird with a big hatchet. And to give a bit of the background of each chef (and to have some verbal discourse to lessen the violence?), each chef describes their reason for entering the competition. As I just turned on the program, a clearly agitated, plain Jane chef wannabe explains that her whole life she had the low self esteem and how she hopes to prove to herself that she is worthy of winning this competition. WHACK!! Off come the feet of the chicken.

Now I ask you, if this is a chef's challenge, why do the narrators continually remind us that a blue foot chicken is dry and tough and needs to be poached with gentle loving care? Of course every expert on the panel finds each of the entrees to be inferior, tough and dry. Hello? Somebody's chunk of  poultry leather must get chopped. Well low self esteem girl moves on to the next round. Thank God. Let's see how she manages with the next surprise basket containing eye of newt, wing of bat, massa farina and goat's eyes. Oh, she now feels confident and in her most assertive scaredy cat voice, she announces she is going to make a shortcake with her ingredients. Of course she is.

Because it always comes down to the basics when you want food to taste good. The single greatest dish you will ever make will begin with fresh ingredients, flavours that marry one another and basic technique. Get to know what every herb in the garden tastes like. Choose the ones you like the best and grow your own. And when you entertain, always make your own favourite dishes. Your guests will taste the love.

I love to make my shrimp stuffed chicken breasts for company. Mostly because most of the mess comes early, so you can clean up and at serving time, you just pull this wonderful tray of individual servings out of the oven and plate them up.
So here's what you'll need for dinner for 4:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled & chopped (you can use salad shrimp to save time)
1 bunch of green onion
3 gloves of garlic
1/2 cup butter
splash of dry vermouth
splash of brandy
1/2 cup cream
puff pastry
flour for dusting chicken

To begin, dredge the chicken breasts in seasoned flour (season with salt and pepper is good enough) and fry them in 1/4 cup melted butter on Med heat. Let them brown on both sides for about 8 minutes or so on each side. Put them aside.

In a separate skillet, melt some butter and sweat the garlic (minced) and the sliced green onion. Add the chopped shrimp and just when the shrimp begins to turn pink, add a generous splash of vermouth. Swirl it all around for a minute and add the brandy. I flambe it at this point. But if you're not comfortable with that, skip that step and let it cook off for a couple of minutes to burn off the alcohol. Add the cream and gently stir that in. Turn off the heat and set this aside.

Here comes the messy part. Slice open each breast and stuff it with 1/4 of the shrimp mixture. Or however much you can fit in there. It's fine if there is leftover shrimp mixture because you can use it to garnish upon serving. Lay each stuffed breast on a sheet of puff pastry (you can also use phyllo dough in this recipe. Just brush it with butter). Wrap it up like a burrito so the entire breast in encased tightly in the pastry. Lay them on a greased casserole dish and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.

If you have leftover shrimp mixture, heat it up just before serving and garnish each breast with it.
I usually serve this with asparagus or baby carrots and that's it! People go wild for this one and to think you didn't have to take your hatchet out of the camping equipment at all! Bon Apetit!


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